Be Like a Sunflower

It’s hard to comprehend it has been since March when we last saw each other in person. Our pointe shoes took their last steps across the studio floor on March 12th, 2020, and we had to close on March 14th. When we first closed, we quickly began training virtually; hopeful our final performance of the last season would reach the stage. We didn’t know that the days would turn into months and that our three weeks’ closure would reach far beyond the summer. Reality became virtual - at times feeling too difficult to turn on our computers and remember why we started dancing in the first place. How many emotions could we feel? Defeated, confused, wary of the unknown, guardedly optimistic? Hopeful? Ask yourself, do we dance only because there is a studio and a stage?

Every year, Gull Meadow Farms grows a beautiful field of sunflowers. Our performance group, “The Dancer Collective” came together during the farm’s Sunflower Days to dance through the fields and see each other in person for the first time since March. We could hardly believe our eyes! The brilliant sunflower field burst brightly in front of us the same way our hearts were bursting with happiness to see each other again.

It felt like only a moment had passed since we had last danced together and, at the same time, it felt like forever. As we walked through the fields, we laughed, told stories and admired the beautiful flowers together. It was a hot summer evening, and we were excited to dance together again. As we walked, we wove our way through carefully to not disturb the buzzing bees. Everything was happening all at once, and it felt right. We belonged together, each person bringing her own uniqueness with her.

There are very few things that compare to the feeling of dancing with your best friends. There is a knowing, a trust, an instinct that can only grow through time and shared experiences. In that golden moment watching the flowers rising up to the sun, it became so clear what we have built at Ballet Kalamazoo and what really matters - friendship, overcoming challenges together, knowing the person dancing next to you is on your side, sharing, looking toward the future with positivity.

Ballet pushes us to be our best selves. It stretches and pulls us beyond where we believe we can go sometimes to the point of feeling as if we couldn’t possibly do one more plié. It would be so easy to walk away. Ballet is hard. It is slow and meticulous work. It takes a lifetime of work, commitment and never stops challenging us. Dance teaches us so much more than the steps we take. It guides us through a life full of beauty, wonder, history, music, art, and achievements. It fuels our soul and demands our hearts to drive us wherever life leads us.

Dancing in the studio can be difficult, too. Some days we can do a triple pirouette and, for seemingly no reason at all, other days we can barely balance on two legs. Dancing in a field of sunflowers in 90 degree heat and humidity is hard. Dancing on a stage in front of an audience is sometimes daunting. Especially in pointe shoes with blisters and bruised toenails while wearing a stiff, constricting tutu. We don't dance because it is easy. It never gets any easier. Just as we get stronger, a new challenge arises and, again, we will come together to overcome it. Our passion out-dances anything that tries to hold us back from doing what we love.

Dancing from your home is no different. It asks the same of us. It asks us to open our hearts and minds to a new way to dance. Does dancing from home mean stop doing what we love because it is different? Because it is new and challenging?

What if it grew us? What if like a sunflower we grew from a seed and pushed our way through dirt, roots, and weeds to rise up, hold our heads high and stand tall? Ballet Kalamazoo dancers will always turn ourselves towards the sun to feel the warmth on our faces in order to grow stronger. Our pointe shoes will be covered in the dirt, blood, sweat and tears from our devotion to our love of dance and commitment to our dreams. Like a sunflower, we will choose to live our brightest lives and let the challenges of these times fall behind us like the shadows from leaves cast on the ground.

Our floors at home may be a little more worn than they were before. Our walls are holding memories until we are ready to reflect and, at last, put these challenging times behind us. On that brilliant day when we can safely return to the studio and take our places at the barre, our hearts will breathe a sigh of relief to know we are capable of overcoming anything; nothing will stop us from achieving our dreams.

Ballet Kalamazoo dancers are united, strong and forward-looking. In our souls, we know dance is life, wherever our journey together takes us.

“True friends are like bright sunflowers that never fade away, even over distance and time.” –Marie Williams Johnstone

Ballet Kalamazoo is doing everything we can to safeguard your child’s well-being during this ongoing global health crisis. Be well!

With warm regards,

Amy Russell

Artistic Director/Owner Ballet Kalamazoo

The Dancer Collective

Enjoy our photos by Picking Photography capturing this special moment together.

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